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Accused parent killer to remain at hospital

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A suspect in the murder of a Center Grove area couple more than a decade ago wanted to be released from a psychiatric hospital but won’t be going anywhere soon.

Suspect Joseph McGrew had written a note to a Johnson County Superior Court judge asking to be released.

But he withdrew that request, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said. The Indiana Division of Mental Health also told the prosecutor’s office that McGrew should remain in a psychiatric hospital for the time being, Cooper said.

Cooper said he no longer has to decide whether to refile murder charges against McGrew, who was arrested after his parents were found shot dead in their home in 1998.

He had been reviewing whether to charge McGrew again after the prospect arose last year that he could be released.


The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office was reviewing whether to refile murder charges against Joseph McGrew. He was arrested more than a decade ago in the murder of his parents but since has been informed that he’ll remain in a psychiatric hospital.

September 1998: Stephen D. and Marian McGrew were found shot dead in their White River Township home. Their son, Joseph McGrew, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

November 1998: McGrew attempted to commit suicide with a razor in the Johnson County jail.

1999: McGrew was ruled incompetent to stand trial after giggling inappro­priately and rolling his eyes at the judge in court.

April 2002: McGrew was deemed competent and moved from a psychiatric hospital to the Johnson County jail.

September 2002: McGrew again was found incompetent and sent back to the psychiatric hospital.

2006: The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office decided to drop the murder charges because McGrew’s sisters couldn’t collect their share of their parents’ insurance money while criminal charges were pending against him. They needed the money to pay his legal and medical bills.

2011: McGrew filed a handwritten motion in Johnson Superior Court 1 asking to be released from a state hospital, but he later withdrew it.

“It’s moot at this point,” Cooper said. “He’s not going anywhere now, and he still wouldn’t go anywhere if I re-filed charges.”

McGrew might never face the charges. He could end up spending the rest of his life in psychiatric hospitals, Cooper said.

Psychiatric hospitals treat patients for as long as they need care, Indiana Division of Mental Health spokesman Neal Moore said. Patients undergo regular evaluations to see if they’re well enough to be released.

The department called Cooper last year to tell him they were considering releasing McGrew from a hospital and putting him in a halfway house. They warned him so he could decide whether to pursue charges that had been dropped after McGrew wasn’t found competent to stand trial.

McGrew also filed a handwritten motion in Johnson Superior Court 1 asking to be freed. He was appointed an attorney who represented him earlier and then withdrew the request.

He remains in a state psychiatric hospital and still is considered incompetent to stand trial, Cooper said.

More than 13 years ago, police found a then-19-year-old McGrew lying on his bed with the murder weapon under his pillow shortly after his parents were found dead. Stephen D. McGrew, 49, and Marian McGrew, 48, each had been shot several times in their beds.

He was arrested and charged with two courts of murder.

But McGrew behaved oddly after his arrest, such as by giggling inappropriately during his initial court appearance and not responding to police questions.

“He wasn’t talking,” Johnson County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Randy Werden said. “That was the big issue. He wasn’t communicating at all.”

In 1999, a judge found that McGrew was incompetent, meaning he was unable to understand his court proceedings or assist his attorney in his defense.

Seven years later, the prosecutor’s office dropped murder charges at the request of the family so they could collect insurance money to pay for hospital and legal bills.

The prosecutor’s office could refile the charges at any time, Cooper said.

But prosecuting McGrew will get more difficult as time passes, Cooper said. For instance, witnesses could die.

“The more time that goes by, the harder it gets to prove a case,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast.”

Cooper started reviewing the evidence against McGrew, such as if any psychiatrists had evaluated his mental condition at the time of the murders. But he abandoned the effort after the state told him McGrew would not be released.

“They’re going to continue to detain him,” he said. “He’s not free. It’s not like it’s a country club prison where he’s free to go around.”

Cooper said he would start reviewing the case again if he were informed there was any possibility of McGrew being released in the future.

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